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10 dead in Texas school shooting; Episcopal church to host prayer service

Fri, 05/18/2018 - 3:01pm

[Episcopal News Service] Ten people – nine students, one teacher – are dead following a May 18 shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas, 40 miles south of Houston.

“Prayers are offered for the students, families and faculty who have been impacted by this act of violence,” said Bishop Andy Doyle in an email to the Diocese of Texas, which includes Santa Fe. “I have already received prayers from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who reached out immediately.”

Diocesan staff contacted area community leaders, and locally clergy and lay leaders are reaching out to those connected to the school, he said.

“Like any church in the midst of the community, we are a network of relationships that include the very lives of those who are at this very moment dealing with the horror of personal loss,” Doyle said. “We grieve gun violence perpetrated in one of the most vulnerable of situations – a school. Now is the time to grieve and pastor the families in our community who are hurting and dismayed and searching for hope. Our churches in the surrounding area stand ready with pastoral care for anyone affected by this tragedy.”

Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Dickinson, just north of Santa Fe, opened as a place of prayer and reflection following the shooting and will host a community-wide prayer service beginning at 6:30 p.m. local time.

The 17-year-old suspect, also a Santa Fe High School student, is in custody. The attack is the deadliest since the shooting deaths of 17 students at a Parkland, Florida, high school on Feb. 14. The February attack sparked a nationwide student movement against gun violence.

Church in Wales sets aside evangelism fund to engage society

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 5:34pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church in Wales has announced a new £10 million program to help its six dioceses fund new evangelism projects. The Church in Wales’ first ever Evangelism Fund will be launched this weekend with the aim of engaging “Welsh society with the claims of the Christian faith in vibrant and exciting ways.” The fund will provide grants of between £250,000 and £3 million, for diocesan projects that “will focus on people rather than buildings,” the Church in Wales said.

Read the full article here.

Church of England welcomes British government’s gambling announcement

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 5:32pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The British government has announced that it is restricting the maximum stake on a type of electronic gambling terminal to just £2. The announcement follows a campaign by the Church of England and others to lower the maximum stake on Fixed Odd Betting Terminals from £100 to £2.

Read the full article here.

El Obispo Presidente Curry participará en la procesión del 24 de mayo con vigilia en la Casa Blanca

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 4:37pm

El Obispo Presidente de la Iglesia Episcopal, Michael Curry, se unirá a otros líderes religiosos y ancianos de la iglesia en Washington, DC para lanzar la Declaración para Rescatar a Jesús en un servicio religioso seguido de una vigilia silenciosa a la luz de las velas frente a la Casa Blanca, el 24 de mayo.

Todos están invitados a asistir al evento, comenzando a las 7 de la noche hora del este en la National City Christian Church, 5 Thomas Circle NW, Washington DC. En el servicio en la Iglesia, el Obispo Presidente Curry se unirá a 10 líderes religiosos y ancianos en oración y predicación.

Después del servicio en la iglesia, a las 8:30 de la noche, un grupo que se estima constará de más de mil  personas seguirá al Obispo Presidente Curry y a los líderes religiosos y ancianos mientras van en procesión desde la National City Christian Church hasta la Casa Blanca.

“El servicio en la iglesia, la procesión a la Casa Blanca y la vigilia silenciosa a la luz de las velas se planifican en respuesta a las crisis morales y políticas en los niveles más altos de liderazgo político que ponen en juego tanto el alma de la nación como la integridad de la fe cristiana”, señaló el reverendo Jim Wallis, presidente y fundador de Sojourners. “Los ancianos llaman a todos los cristianos a recordar que nuestra identidad en Jesús precede a cualquier otra identidad”.

La Declaración para Rescatar a Jesús se encuentra aquí.

La Oficina de Comunicaciones de la Iglesia Episcopal transmitirá el servicio en la iglesia, la procesión y la vigilia silenciosa. La transmisión en vivo estará disponible aquí.

El horario
El servicio en la National City Christian Church comienza a las 7 de la noche. La procesión a la Casa Blanca comienza a las 8:30 de la noche hora del este. Se espera que la vigilia silenciosa de velas comience de la 8:45 de la noche y dure hasta las 10 de la noche.

Los líderes religiosos y ancianos
Los líderes religiosos y los ancianos representan a muchas tradiciones cristianas: iglesias evangélicas, protestantes, católicas romanas y afroamericanas.

Incluyendo al Obispo Presidente Curry, otros participantes en el servicio en la iglesia y la vigilia serán:

  • El Rdo. Dr. Walter Brueggemann, Profesor Emérito, Seminario Teológico Columbia
  • El Dr. Tony Campolo, Cofundador, Red Letter Christians
  • El Rdo. Dr. James Forbes, Presidente y Fundador de la Fundación Healing of the Nations y Profesor de Predicación en el Union Theological Seminary
  • El Rdo. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, Secretario General Emérito de la Iglesia Reformada de América
  • El Rdo. Dr. Richard Hamm, ex Ministro General y Presidente de la Iglesia Cristiana (Discípulos de Cristo)
  • El P. Richard Rohr, Fundador, Centro de Acción y Contemplación
  • El Dr. Ron Sider, Presidente Emérito de Evangélicos para la Acción Social
  • El Rdo. Jim Wallis, Presidente y Fundador, Sojourners
  • La Rda. Dra. Sharon Watkins, Directora, NCC Verdad e Iniciativa de Justicia Racial
  • La Dra. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Co-organizadora, Red Nacional de Clero Afroamericana; Presidente, Skinner Leadership Institute

No se requiere inscripción anticipada para participar en el servicio en la iglesia, para la procesión y la vigilia; sin embargo, se recomienda a los participantes que marquen su asistencia en Facebook aquí.

Episcopalians help Muslims break their daily fast at interfaith iftar dinners during Ramadan

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 2:33pm

Muslims join Episcopalians in June 2017 for an iftar meal hosted by St. James Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio. The church’s 15th annual iftar will be May 31. Photo: St. James, via Facebook

[Episcopal News Service] The Muslim holy month of Ramadan started this week, and Episcopal congregations across the country have been encouraged to participate in an interfaith outpouring of support, including by hosting or joining the dinners at which Muslims break their daily fast.

The meals, called iftars, are served every evening after sundown during Ramadan, which started this year on May 16. Iftars often are festive community gatherings, sometimes held in homes, sometimes in mosques – and sometimes in Christian churches, an effort to bridge divides across faith traditions.

St. James Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio, is preparing to host its 15th annual iftar, and the meals have become so popular that the church has to take reservations and cap attendance at 150. Lead organizer Janet Bailey called the meal the church’s gift to its Muslim neighbors, “to let them know that we care and that we’re not afraid and that this is a safe environment for them.”

Similar iftars have been hosted in the past at Episcopal churches nationwide, such as in Miami and Houston. This year, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, on Long Island is gathering a group of parishioners to attend a community iftar hosted by a local Muslim organization. Teens specifically have been invited, part of a broader interfaith response to an incident last year involving hate speech at a local high school.

“Very few of our parishioners or our teens have ever been to a mosque or an Islamic center,” the Rev. Gideon L.K. Pollach, rector at St. John’s, told Episcopal News service. “This is part of a larger effort in our region to work together on issues of common cause.”

Ramadan is considered the holiest month of the year for Muslims, who abstain from food and drink during daytime hours as they heighten their focus on spiritual rejuvenation. The iftar, which means “breaking the fast,” commences at sunset.

“Inviting guests to break the fast or going to someone’s house for iftar is very common in Ramadan,” the Islamic Networks Group, or ING, says on its website.  “Many mosques also host open houses for their friends and neighbors of other faiths to join them for their fast-breaking dinner or iftar at the end of the fasting day.”

ING, an organization whose mission is to build interfaith alliances and dispel stereotypes about Muslims, is one of the supporting partners, along with the Episcopal Church, behind a campaign during Ramadan to connect people of different faiths around the iftar. The campaign, The United States of Love Over Hate, is led by the ecumenical organization Shoulder to Shoulder, of which the Episcopal Church is a member.

“The primary goal of this effort is to identify, support and connect people to iftars open to interfaith guests across the United States, in order to help facilitate local relationship building among Muslim and non-Muslim communities,” Shoulder to Shoulder says on its website. “Additionally, houses of worship are invited to display ‘Love – Your Neighbors’ signs outside their buildings during the month of Ramadan, to show their commitment to standing with and getting to know their neighbors.”

That mission has been taken up by the Episcopal Church’s Office of Ecumenical and Interreligous Relations and is being carried out by congregations like St. James in Ohio and St. John’s in New York.

The iftar at St. James was started in response to episodes of Islamaphobia after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Bailey said. Part of the goal was to educate St. James parishioners about the Muslim faith, though the congregation also wanted to promote a spirit of welcome.

“It’s probably more to let them know here are Christians that are welcoming them to basically our church home and to show that we are no different than them, as far as our likes, our goals in life and wanting to live peacefully,” Bailey said.

The church’s first iftar drew a few dozen guests, and it has grown steadily each year. Most of those attending are Muslim, though the iftars also draw members of St. James and two other Episcopal churches in the area.

On May 31 at sundown, around 9 p.m., guests will gather in the downstairs of the St. James parish hall to break the fast with dates and water. They then will go upstairs, where an imam will lead the group in prayers on rugs laid out for them. After the prayers, all with gather again downstairs for a potluck meal that has been prepared following Muslim halal guidelines.

Given the popularity of the iftars, St. James has worked with All Saints Episcopal Church in New Albany, Ohio, and St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Westerville to host their own iftars later in Ramadan, Bailey said.

Pollach, the St. John’s rector, has never been to an iftar, though he worked as a seminarian in the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations under Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

“In general, learning more about people of different faiths and cultures adds context and depth to our understanding of our own culture,” he said.

Christians, Muslims and Jews in his community on Long Island have been working together in recent years to tackle shared challenges, most notably the opioid epidemic. Their work gained an added sense of urgency in August when swastikas and hate speech were found spray-painted on walls at Syosset High School. Five students were arrested in connection with the graffiti.

Teens and worshipers of all faiths are invited to the iftar on May 22 at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, and Pollach plans to bring a group of eight to 10 members of his church.

“I’m just looking forward to it,” he said. “The ecumenical community has been working really hard to develop a greater depth of understanding across the communities … to try and build relationships, not just around religious things but also around social and cultural issues.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

WCC calls for just peace and an end to impunity in the Holy Land

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 2:16pm

[World Council of Churches] World Council of Churches General Secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit condemned use of excessive violence by Israeli forces against civilian protestors in Gaza during last week in which many have lost their lives or lost their loved ones, and is particularly worried that some Christians are celebrating the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as a gift from God, despite the disruptively provocative nature of this move.

The military responses to the demonstrations in Gaza have resulted in the deaths of many people – including several children – and injuries to thousands, and the numbers are still growing. This violence and bloodshed must be condemned by the international community and must be subject to international investigation. The situation calls for a deeper understanding that lies behind these events.

The protesters are exercising their civil rights to express their objection and despair at the current situation for them as Palestinian people. The “naqba”, the catastrophe their families experienced 70 years ago, continues to cause unresolved dispossession and suffering for many Palestinians – particularly for the people of Gaza. That unarmed civilians – including children – are shot at with live ammunition, even killed, and many injured – cannot be defended legally or morally as an expression of “the right to self-defense of a state”. This must be seen as an unacceptable use of violence against people that Israel rather has a duty to respect and protect.

Jerusalem is a shared Holy City of the three religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the Holy Land, a comprehensive and sustainable peace must be based upon a two-state solution along internationally recognized borders.

The protest is against the unilateral U.S. decision to move its embassy to the “undivided Jerusalem.” That action is against all relevant U.N. resolutions, and it has created a serious obstacle to any peaceful and just solution. The issue of Jerusalem has not been ‘taken off the table’, but remains one of the most difficult issues on the table for peace negotiations, made even more volatile by the U.S. action.

Protests on May 14 coincided with the official transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel. Protests on May 15 were marking the 70th anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as the naqba, or “catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands of people were uprooted during Israel’s creation in 1948.

The World Council of Churches has consistently affirmed the long-held understanding that the status of the city of Jerusalem – which is of profound significance to and beloved of three faiths and two peoples – must be resolved through peaceful negotiations.

At a time such as this all actors – and particularly the powerful state of Israel and foreign states – must strive for a just peace, act with utmost respect for the sanctity of life and exercise restraint from all forms of violence, which will further escalate the ongoing tensions.

It is a very serious situation for the churches locally – and globally – that some Christians are thanking God for a decision that is so blatantly against international law and policy, so much undermining the peace process based on a common international understanding of the rights of both peoples to share Jerusalem as their capital, and so provocative to the occupied and oppressed people of Palestine. This should concern all who understand their religious faith as compelling them to work for reconciliation and peace.

It is deeply saddening that previous cautions that any unilateral decision about the future of Jerusalem would undermine the peace efforts in the Holy Land have gone unheeded, directly contributing to the current violence. This clearly could have been avoided. Further, we are deeply concerned about the repercussions that relocating the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem will have on finding a lasting solution to the situation in the Holy Land.

We urge the international community to accelerate all efforts toward a just and viable solution which respects the aspirations of all the people living in the Holy Land in line with international conventions and resolutions. Even as the threat of an increasing spiral of violence looms large, we join our member churches in hope and prayer that efforts toward peace will overcome the present tragic violence and lead to a time when “swords shall be beaten to plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.”

The WCC expresses its solidarity with its member churches in the Holy Land, and will continue to accompany them in their work for reconciliation, justice and peace.

Anglican priest in Mexico honored for work in US for female victims of violence

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 1:05pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Mexican government has bestowed an honor on an Anglican priest in recognition of her work helping female victims of violence in the United States. The Rev. María Elena Daniel Cristerna was presented with the Ohtli Award at the Mexican Consulate at Eagle Pass, Texas, earlier this month. Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ACNS that Cristerna was one of 10 Ohtli Awards given to “Mexicans and friends of Mexico, who have dedicated their lives and professional activities, to forging a path for the Mexican community abroad” as part of the 156th anniversary of the Battle of Puebla and Cinco de Mayo.

Read the full article here.


Six Anglican churches in New Zealand shortlisted for post-earthquake heritage awards

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 12:46pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] More than half of the finalists for an award recognizing “commitment, investment or a unique solution to earthquake strengthening which has saved or will now protect a heritage building” in Christchurch, New Zealand, are Anglican churches and a school.

The six buildings have recently reopened following extensive renovation and repair work after the devastating 2011 earthquake in the city. They are among 290 Anglican properties in the Diocese of Christchurch under the care of the Church Property Trustees. Some 234 of them were damaged in the quake, the most notable being Christ Church Cathedral.

Read the full article here.

NCC laments opening of US embassy in Jerusalem

Wed, 05/16/2018 - 12:17pm

[National Council of Churches] The National Council of Churches laments the move of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We have previously warned that such an unwise and prejudicial action would make a peace settlement even more difficult to achieve and would indeed lead to violence.  The deadly violence that followed the opening of the embassy bears out the truth of this warning.

At the time of this writing, at the border between Israel and Gaza, at least 61 Palestinians who were protesting the opening of the embassy have been killed by Israeli forces and 2,700 more have been injured.  This is in addition to dozens already killed and thousands more wounded in recent weeks leading up to this move. The National Council of Churches condemns this violent and disproportionate response by Israeli forces.  We consider it an illustration of the failure of Israel, the United States, and the international community to address the injustice of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and the inability to conclude a two-state solution.

Moreover, we are deeply chagrined that Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist minister who has condemned Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, and others to hell led prayers at the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. We are further disappointed by the presence of evangelical pastor John Hagee, a proponent of the misguided theology of Christian Zionism, among the invited speakers.  Their unfortunate participation in this ceremony reflects the reality that yesterday’s event in Jerusalem represents pandering to a segment of evangelical Christianity here in the U.S. rather than an affirmation of the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and prayers of Christians who live in the Holy Land.

Finally, the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem illustrates the increasing isolation of our country within the international community when it comes to policy in the region.  In failing to help constructively address the prolonged crisis in Syria, and after unilaterally withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, yesterday’s event in Jerusalem reflects the United States’ apparent abdication of its role as an honest proponent, broker, and partner for peace.

Anglican Church of Canada elects its first female archbishop

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 2:50pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] Bishop of New Westminster Melissa Skelton has been elected as archbishop and metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia and Yukon. She will continue in her role as bishop of New Westminster while taking on responsibility for the internal province. She is the first woman to be elected an archbishop in the Anglican Church of Canada and only the second within the Anglican Communion. Skelton Earlier this year Bishop Kay Goldworthy was elected as Archbishop of Perth in the Anglican Church of Australia. Each are responsible for internal provinces, and so are not primates.

There has been a female primate in the Anglican Communion: Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori became the first – and so far only – female primate when she was elected as presiding bishop of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church in 2006, a role she held until her her term expired in 2015.

Read the entire article here.

Editor’s note: Skelton as canon for congregational development and leadership and rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Seattle, in the Diocese of Olympia, when she was elected by a special synod in late 2013.

Anglican Church of Burundi helps improve rice growing techniques

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:34pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Church of Burundi has been training farmers to improve rice yields as part of efforts to combat food insecurity in the country. The two-year project has been run in partnership with Episcopal Relief & Development, the overseas development agency of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church. Growing rice has been the main activity for people living along side Lake Tanganyika for many years; but the lack of improved techniques and seeds has caused low production and farmers could not expect to gain much from it.

Read the entire article here.

Australian and Irish bishops issue separate statements on same-sex relationships

Tue, 05/15/2018 - 12:33pm

[Anglican CommuionNews Service] There is “little appetite” in parishes to continue discussing human sexuality, the House of Bishops of the Church of Ireland has said, in a statement in which the stress that the province’s marriage service “remains unchanged and marriage may be solemnized only between a man and a woman.” In a separate statement, the House of Bishops of the Church of Australia said that the doctrine of their church was that “marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman.” They said that in light of the church’s doctrine, it was “not appropriate for church buildings and halls, and chapels owned by Anglican schools and other Anglican organisations to be used as venues for same-sex marriages.”

Read the entire article here.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ask Presiding Bishop Michael Curry to preach at wedding

Sat, 05/12/2018 - 9:59am

Britain’s Prince Harry poses with Meghan Markle in the Sunken Garden of Kensington Palace, London. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville

[Anglican Communion News Service] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will preach at next weekend’s wedding of Prince Henry of Wales – more informally referred to as Prince Harry – and the U.S. actress Meghan Markle, Kensington Palace announced May 12. Prince Harry, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth and sixth in line to the throne, will marry Markle at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle next Saturday, May 19 in a service conducted by the Dean of Windsor, David Conner. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will officiate.

The invitation from the couple to Curry to preach at the service is a departure from tradition for British royal weddings. While previous royal weddings have involved clergy from other Christian churches saying prayers for the couple, sermons are usually given by senior Church of England clergy. The service will be televised around the world, and it is likely that the presiding bishop, who refers to himself as the CEO of the Episcopal Church – the chief evangelism officer – won’t resist the opportunity to talk about what he calls the Jesus Movement.

Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, shown here preaching on Palm Sunday at St. George the Martyr Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem, was invited by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to preach during their May 19 wedding. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

“The love that has brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God, and is the key to life and happiness,” Curry said. “And so we celebrate and pray for them today.”

Prince Harry was born on Sept. 15, 1984 and was baptized at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, three months later. After completing his formal education, he spent a gap year in Australia and South Africa before training for military service. He served with the British Army in Afghanistan as an officer in the Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons of the Household Cavalry, in the U.S.-led operation to remove the Taliban from power following the September 11 terror attacks in New York and Washington. His service in Afghanistan came to an end after his presence there was revealed by an Australian magazine; but he returned there a few years later in a deployment with the Army Air Corps. In 2014, he launched the Invictus Games for injured ex-service personnel; and is patron of a number of organizations, including the HALO Trust, which is working to remove mines from Qasr el Yahud – the site on the west bank of the River Jordan at the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus.

Meghan Markle was born on Aug. 4, 1981 in Los Angeles, California. Her parents, Doria Ragland and Thomas Markle, divorced when she was six years old. In her acting career, she has appeared in a number of roles, including in the films Get Him to the GreekRemember Me, and Horrible Bosses. But she is best known her portrayal of the character Rachel Zane in the hit U.S.-legal drama series Suits. Her character, a paralegal who trained to become an attorney, was the love interest of phoney-lawyer Mike Ross. Markle married Trevor Engelson in 2011; but the couple divorced in 2013, long before Markle met Prince Harry.

The couple have met Archbishop Justin Welby on a number of occasions as part of the preparations for the wedding; and Markle asked Welby to baptize her. It has been widely reported that she was baptized and confirmed by Welby at St. James’ Palace in London in March.

“It was very special,” Welby told ITV News. “It was beautiful, sincere and very moving. It was a great privilege. . . You know at the heart of it is two people who have fallen in love with each other, who are committing their lives to each other with the most beautiful words and profound thoughts, who do it in the presence of God.”

Previous royal weddings have involved a range of preachers. When Queen Elizabeth married Prince Philip in Westminster Abbey in November 1947, the service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, Alan Don, while the wedding itself was officiated by Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher. The sermon was preached by Archbishop of York Cyril Garbett.

Prince Harry’s mother and father, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, took the unusual decision of marrying at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1981. They were married by Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie, who also preached. In 2005, after Diana’s death, Prince Charles married his second wife Camilla, now Duchess of Cornwall, in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall. This was followed by a Service of Prayer and Dedication at St George’s, Windsor, conducted by Archbishop Rowan Williams. There was no sermon in that service.

Prince Harry’s older brother, Prince William, married his wife Catherine at Westminster Abbey in 2011. The Dean of Westminster, John Hall, presided while Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams conducted the wedding. Lodong Bishop Richard Chartres, dean of Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal, preached the sermon.

St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle is located within the area of the Church of England’s Diocese of Oxford; but it is outside the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop. It is one of a small number of Church of England churches known as Royal Peculiars – which means that it is under the direct control of the monarch, rather than the diocesan bishop or archbishop. Among the other Royal Peculiars are Westminster Abbey, the five chapels that make up the Chapels Royal, and the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, in the Houses of Parliament.

Archbishop of Canterbury urges African Anglican leaders to shape the world

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 10:22am

[Anglican Communion News Service] The archbishop of Canterbury has told African Anglican leaders that the strength of the church on the continent is a gift to the world and that it has the ability to shape the globe – but it must move forward. Speaking at a regional primates meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) in Kenya, Archbishop Justin Welby said the church in the region was full of life and energy. It had grown and had enormous power, even though Africa had often struggled economically.

Read the entire article here.

Texas rector finds remains of detonated package by office door

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 9:58am

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] Sometime between the end of evening worship May 9 and the beginning of school May 11, a package detonated outside the office door of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Beaumont. No one was injured in the blast, which drew a large response from Beaumont law enforcement, the federal Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to the Rev. Steven Balke, rector of St. Stephens.

Balke immediately called police and soon had the office and All Saints School on the church campus evacuated. “The FBI is here and checking the property,” he said as law enforcement officials gathered. “Everyone is taking this very seriously, especially since there is a school involved,” he added.

Balke, who had been at an 8th grade breakfast at the school, said he is very grateful the explosion happened before he arrived at his office. Had he or another staff member picked up a box left at the front door, they could have been severely injured.

“We are very blessed that no one was injured,” he said, “We are grateful for the messages of support and for the prayers that we have had from friends in town and across the country.”

Scootie Clark, head of All Saints’ School of St. Stephen’s, said she was very proud of her students. “The kids were calm and respectful” as they left campus she said, explaining that she felt previous practice for emergency situations had been very valuable.

Melanie Hartfield agreed, adding that “The teachers did a fabulous job.” Hartfield, the school’s advancement director, said the school was initially put in lockdown following the discovery of the damage, before being released to their parents later in the morning.

The school is due to reopen May 14.

The Rt. Rev. Bishop Hector Monterroso, Diocese of Texas bishop assistant; Carol E. Barnwell, diocesan director of communication and the Rev. Joann Saylors, diocesan canon for mission amplification, met with Balke the afternoon tof the incident o offer pastoral care and moral support. Bishop Suffragan Jeff Fisher and Bishop Suffragan Dena Harrison plan a May 11 visit to check in with Balke and school officials.

“I am so grateful there were no injuries and that St. Stephen’s and All Saints School have very strong and wise leadership,” said  Texas Bishop Andy Doyle. “We must pray for the person who carried out this act of cowardice so that they might come to understand that God’s love waits for them.”

Balke has been at St. Stephens since June, 2017, just months before Hurricane Harvey devastated Beaumont. “Steven is grace under fire,” said his wife, Katie.

This was the second explosive device recently reported in the area. One was found at a nearby Starbucks on April 26, but did not detonate.

Episcopal priest announces death of dog Wili, made popular on ‘Last Howlelujah Tour’

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 7:06pm

Nawiliwili Nelson, better known as Wili, spent more than two weeks on the road in a Honda CRV last year with the Rev. Bill Miller, who calls dogs “God’s best work.” Photo: Bill Miller

[Episcopal News Service] The road-tripping, four-legged Episcopalian whose celebrity rose as he melted hearts and raised spirits last year on the “Last Howlelujah Tour” has died.

Nawiliwili “Wili” Nelson was 12 years old. Or maybe 13.

“He was truly a ‘one-in-a-million’ dog!” said the Rev. Bill Miller, Wili’s devoted human and rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Covington, Louisiana.

Wili, a terrier mix, received a cancer diagnosis in November 2016 and was given as little as three months to live. Instead, with the help of surgery, chemotherapy and a healthier diet, the terrier mix was able to survive quite a bit longer, giving him and Miller the time to embark on last year’s road trip from New Orleans to Las Vegas and back again.

Along the way, the pup and pastor generated news headlines while holding book signings and charity events that raised more than $14,000 for animal wellness charities.

Miller announced Wili’s death Monday on Facebook and later wrote up what he calls Wili’s “Obarktuary.”

Born in Hawaii, Wili’s “first recorded public appearance simply notes that the Kauai Humane Society found him wandering happily by the side of the road,” Miller wrote. “It is thought that he was humming ‘On the Road Again’ by an alternative country-western singer with pig tails whom he greatly resembled, and who resided in his dad’s home state of Texas.”

The “Last Howlelujah Tour” took the Rev. Bill Miller and Wili from Louisiana to Nevada, passing through Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. Photo: Bill Miller, via Facebook.

Miller, serving at a church in Hawaii at the time, adopted him from the humane society in July 2006 and named him after that singer, Willie Nelson.

A 59-year-old Texas native, Miller was in Austin when he got his first dog, an Airedale named Sam, in 1993. The dog’s story of surviving a house fire became the foundation for Miller’s 2005 book, “The Gospel According to Sam.” (Miller’s other book is “The Beer Drinker’s Guide to God.”)

Miller’s side gig as a storyteller shows through in his final tribute, such as his description of their move to Louisiana in 2015. “Wili never met a stranger—he quickly became friends with everyone in his neighborhood, dogs and humans alike. In Louisiana, Wili became well-known as a stuffed-alligator wrestling champion.”

Miller thanked the veterinarians who cared for Wili through the years and offered this guidance for those wishing to pay their respects: “In lieu of bones, everyone is encouraged to sniff your loved ones today, and send a donation to your favorite animal welfare organization, especially those Wili supported on his Last Howlelujah Tour, plus the Kauai Humane Society, and the St. Tammany Humane Society.”

A celebration of Wili’s life is in the works, Miller said, “featuring barbecue and beer.”

And a book about the Last Howlelujah Tour? “Perhaps.”

– David Paulsen is an editor and reporter for the Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at dpaulsen@episcopalchurch.org.

Episcopalians in food ministry worry vulnerable immigrants aren’t being fed because of detention fears

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 4:34pm

Home Cooked Fridays, a weekly meal prepared by the community for the community, at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Austin, is prepared with rescued food. Photo courtesy of Kelly Barnhill

[Episcopal News Service] It’s a problem with no clear solution. Immigrants with pending U.S. applications for legal residence or citizenship fear a possible new regulation that could mean they’ll hurt their chances toward those residency goals if they use government nutrition programs to help feed their eligible family members, thus possibly tearing their families apart.

One thing is obvious, however, some food-ministering Episcopalians say: Politics aside, feeding the hungry is a Christian duty.

The Department of Homeland Security has drafted a regulation that would allow officials to factor in the use of public benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, i.e., food stamps) when deciding whether to approve some visa or green card applications, according to the New York Times.

As they have served up rice, meat and vegetables, many Episcopal food ministry providers talk with immigrants and listen to the stories of how some, especially those caught in complicated situations with their legal residency status, suffer disproportionately from food insecurity and poverty in the United States. Now on top of worrying about Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids, they’re worried about the proposed regulation’s effect on their ability to become legal residents or citizens if they accept help to feed their children. As media reports come out and rumors swirl, it’s still unclear if that worry is founded.

“I am deeply concerned about how all of this bears on our gospel need to protect the poor and the disenfranchised,” Brian Hopper, parishioner of All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Austin, Texas, told Episcopal News Service.

Until Hopper’s term ended in March, he was the church’s board representative of Micah 6 Austin, a consortium of central Austin churches that serve hungry people in central Austin. The group distributed 26,000 pounds of food to 869 individuals and families in February, the latest numbers available.

Home Cooked Fridays is a community outreach program in Austin, Texas, that uses the universal language of food to help address some of the social, health and developmental issues that affect teens and adults. Photo: All Saints’ Episcopal Church

Not everyone who feels vulnerable to this problem needs to worry, said Elizabeth Gibson, an immigration attorney with New York Legal Assistance Group, which helped 34,000 immigrants in 2017. The new administration is trying to broaden the number of people affected by the Immigration and Nationality Act, which has a comprehensive list for who is ineligible for admission, including those likely to become a public charge, by redefining what kind of assistance is being considered and how it’s considered, she said.

Still, the proposed rule change won’t hurt certain types of immigrants who were exempt already, including survivors of abuse who qualify through the Violence Against Women Act, T-visas, Special Immigrant Juvenile Statute, asylum-seeking and U-visas for those who don’t fall under the other categories.

“They’re not changing the law itself, so they’re not changing the exemption,” Gibson told ENS.

“It’s technically a forward-looking test about checking if you may depend on benefits in the future, not necessarily if you’ve used them in the past. It’s not retro-active, but it’s already having a chilling effect on these public services, surrounding the whole issue in fear and rumor.”

The draft of the proposed regulation change was sent to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget on March 29. The next step is for the proposal to be published in Federal Register, announcing a 60-day comment period on www.regulations.gov. Then the final rule will be published in the Federal Register and take effect, Gibson said.

It’s a rule-making process that has no set deadline. Although Gibson expects pushback from advocacy groups, “it’s not a question of if it’s going to happen, more like when it’s going to happen.”

Episcopal food ministry volunteers witness the fear

Still, several Episcopal food ministries are seeing sharp drops in visitors in the last year or two.

The drop has happened gradually over the past year but took a sharp dip as recently as December and January, said the Rev. Frank Alton, provost at the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles Cathedral Center of St. Paul and rector of its St. Athanasius Episcopal Church in Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The church has a Friday food bank operating out of the cathedral center and serves a Wednesday hot meal, called Transforming Hunger, outside in the adjacent garden.

The food bank saw a drop from 300 people served every Friday to 150. Food banks offer fresh produce and packaged goods that require preparation at home, so most recipients at food banks have homes but are struggling to make ends meet, Alton said. At the Wednesday hot meal, which draws more people without homes, attendance dropped from about 100 people to 40 people.

“The most significant decrease is among Hispanics,” Alton said. His volunteers hear from guests that they’re worried about the administration’s tougher immigration rules and enforcement, and about possible raids. “One of the reasons is they’re afraid of ICE coming and doing a round-up. They’ve said that point blank. It’s dramatic.”

The Rev. Francisco J. Garcia Jr. is co-chairperson of the Diocese of Los Angeles sanctuary task force, called L.A. Sacred Resistance, and has worked in immigrant rights and justice issues for 15 years. He is also rector of Holy Faith Episcopal Church in Inglewood, California. The task force formed within the last two years, when presidential campaign promises panned out with executive orders for tougher immigration rules. Members offer pastoral care and advocate for changes in government policy.

It creates the general culture of fear when these punitive policies or laws are enacted, and that hurts what we’re trying to do,” Garcia said. “There are going to be more and more people afraid to access anything, which is especially detrimental to families that have children and may be eligible. A lot of times the parents are not documented, but the kids are actually eligible because they were born here, and the parents are afraid to reveal themselves in any way.”

Foreign-born people comprise about 13 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau’s 2016 estimates.

Jubilee Ministries try to help

For 25 years, Jubilee Ministries in dioceses across the Episcopal Church have sought to be on the front line of feeding the hungry – regardless of nationality and citizenship, the Rev. Melanie Mullen, the Episcopal Church director of reconciliation, justice and creation care, told ENS. More than 690 parishes feed hungry people in their communities with food pantries, soup kitchens, community meals, community gardens and backpack programs, Mullen said.

“Fighting hunger is at the heart of our Episcopal understanding of mission. Jesus fed the hungry and told his disciples to do the same,” Mullen said. “Yet, we know that hunger is an extremely complex phenomenon with economic, political and social causes. That is why many Episcopal parishes have joined together in networks to combat hunger and serve the vulnerable in our communities.”

Volunteers served guacamole nachos as part of the weekly Home Cooked Fridays Community Meal at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Austin. Photo: All Saints’ Episcopal Church

At Trinity Amnesty Center in Aurora, Illinois, Linda Barber is a Jubilee minister who helps people mostly with applications for U.S. citizenship and with green card applications for direct relatives of a U.S. citizen or legal resident. In the last 30 years, she’s helped more than 1,000 people become citizens. Aurora, the second largest city in Illinois, is about 40 miles from Chicago with a large Spanish-speaking population.

But while her applicants are going through the complicated process, Barber warns them to be very careful about using any government nutrition services for their children, who qualify if they were born in the U.S. because they are citizens.

“I just tell them they better not, because it could jeopardize their chances, which is really, really sad,” Barber told ENS. “Immigration is a strange ballgame.”

For the last 25 years, Barber has also been coordinating the 100-125 hot meals served weekly at the Sandwich Board, a soup kitchen ministry in partnership with other churches that’s hosted at her church. She’s seen the number of Latino guests increase in tandem with the area’s population change in the last 10 years.

Barber knows she must have a lot of unauthorized immigrants at her soup kitchen but doesn’t ask because she’s not required to get that information, she said. Food ministries that get funding from government grants are often required to track demographics.

Worry about being listed in any kind of record books for receiving free food has stopped people from getting the help they need, said Dianne Aid, director of the Jubilee Center in Auburn, Washington, a ministry of the Diocese of Olympia in Washington state. Aid knows several people who can serve as examples, who don’t want to use their full names for safety’s sake.

Ariana, an Episcopalian in her mid-30s, came to the United States illegally from Mexico as a toddler with her parents, Aid said. She’s trying to gain legal status while also working and feeding her U.S.-born children, supplementing what she can provide with SNAP to help feed her kids.

But Ariana quit the food stamps program because she’s afraid it could hurt her ability to become a legal resident, or worse, instigate deportation, tearing her away from her children.

“I’ve been working with this population since 1993, and I’ve not seen such fear until now,” Aid told ENS.

She’s worked with Ariana, who, after resorting to selling flowers on the street to feed her kids, was able to secure a full-time job working for an activist agency. Aid’s Jubilee Center focuses its work on immigrants, mostly from Latin America, largely undocumented, through pastoral support, training, helping with applications, particularly for victims of domestic violence. She’s also trying to instill cultural heritage pride in the native-born children. There’s a teaching kitchen and garden.

In Auburn, Washington, Jubilee Center volunteer Vicki Cubillos scrapes kernels off a corn cob to make masa for tortillas. She coordinates a women’s economic empowerment group and is part of a Mexican indigenous drum and dancing group. Photo: Dianne Aid

“This is not about undocumented people greedily taking welfare. These are people that are part of the fabric of our community and are trying to feed their children, who are for the most part U.S. citizens,” Aid said about families with members who have different residency statuses. “Most undocumented people aren’t taking welfare because most of them don’t qualify and can’t get it.”

By 2017, 11.1 percent of native-born households and 12.3 percent of households headed by immigrants who arrived in the previous five years used the SNAP program, according to an April 2018 report from the Center for Immigration Studies.

Diverting food that would otherwise be wasted

It’s a statistic often cited: More than 40 percent of the food in the United States goes uneaten and is wasted, which totals $165 billion a year, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

To fight that waste when so many go hungry, Kelly Barnhill succeeded Hopper as the current All Saints representative on the Micah 6 Austin board and gathers unused food from grocery stores and restaurants. Still, she worries that those who need it the most can’t get it.

A creamy chicken, carrots and peas dish topped with biscuits with a side of asparagus and mixed green salad plus cookies for dessert is an example of the kinds of well-rounded, nutritious and delicious meals offered at Home Cooked Fridays. Photo: All Saints’ Episcopal Church

“There are a lot of church programs or recreation centers that have food pantries, but no matter where you go, you have to provide proof of some form of residence. If I were in their shoes, I’d be scared to do that,” Barnhill told ENS. “How is food getting to people who don’t have documentation now? I was surprised that numbers for our food pantries and other food pantries have been dropping off.”

In March, the Rev. William “Billy” Tweedie, vicar of the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Austin, started the Diverted Food Pantry where the recipients don’t have to provide any kind of identification. Data such as a photo ID, tax ID, proof of residency with a utility bill or simply a local zip code is often required by organizations that receive funding from elsewhere, like government grants or USDA partnerships. The idea to start the pantry came from Barnhill, who collects the unused food from nearby restaurants and grocery stores and diverts it from heading to the dumpster to organizations serving it to the people who need it most.

The Rev. William “Billy” Tweedy, John Monroe, Jennifer Johnston and Christina Prikryl helped set up the first Diverted Food Pantry event in March at Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Austin. Photo: Episcopal Church of the Resurrection

“I love the idea of having a food pantry with no questions asked. Which also means ideally we’re hitting people living below the poverty line who need food the most, and also using food that would end up on the dumpster or sit on shelves indefinitely,” Tweedie told ENS. “People just stop going and getting help because they’re afraid that ICE could be waiting for them.”

Tweedie offers volunteer opportunities to the food recipients, so the relationships feel more balanced.

Derek Minno-Bloom sees hunger as a justice issue, rather than a charity issue. He’s the social and food justice director at Trinity Episcopal Church in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Trinity’s thrice-weekly food pantry and Saturday soup kitchen volunteers serve 30,000-35,000 meals a year, no questions asked. Bloom said he’s seen fewer people from the undocumented community come to the pantry since the beginning of the Trump administration out of fear of deportation, mostly his Latino/Hispanic and Haitian community members.

“As far as our undocumented community members, we have had ‘Know Your Rights’ training and have connected them to free and non-free lawyers. We have also made it known that we are a sanctuary church to all,” he said.

Mullen said the Episcopal Church’s work with vulnerable immigrants is rooted in the Gospel.

“Lack of legal status contributes to economic insecurity and exploitation,” she said. “Stigmatizing poverty and threatening immigrants is counter the vision of Jesus.”

— Amy Sowder is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. Learn more at AmySowder.com.

RIP: Homiletics Professor Mitties DeChamplain

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 12:27pm

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Mitties McDonald DeChamplain, who for many years served as a professor of homiletics at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan, died May 8 after a brief hospitalization.

Born in 1948 in Pasadena, California, DeChamplain earned her doctorate in communications from the University of Southern California. Drawn to the Episcopal priesthood, she was ordained by Bishop Frederick Borsch in the Diocese of Los Angeles in 1996 and taught homiletics at Fuller Theological Seminary, an evangelical seminary in Pasadena. Her love for the Episcopal Church, however, led her in 1998 to leave Fuller in California to join the faculty of General Seminary in Manhattan. There, until the school’s 2016 commencement, she helped to educate and prepare future Episcopal clergy to be preachers.

“As a professor of homiletics, Mitties understood the need and benefit of being a regular preacher herself, so throughout her academic career at General, she also served congregations of New York City,” wrote Diocese of New York Bishop Andrew Dietsche in announcing DeChamplain’s death. “She is perhaps best known for her ministry at St. Clement’s in the theatre district of Manhattan, a Spirit-led setting for her since she was an avid enthusiast of Broadway musicals. Nevertheless, other congregations knew her well and cherished her ministry, including most recently the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, also in the theatre district, and Trinity Church in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx, where Mitties had been a regular supply priest.”

Soon after word of her death spread, friends and former students began posting tributes to DeChamplain on each of her Facebook pages, here and here. DeChamplain volunteered for months as a chaplain at the Temporary Mortuary at Ground Zero in Manhattan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, blessing remains as they were recovered, and ministering to recovery workers and law enforcement personnel. One Facebook friend, the Rev. Storm Swain, noted that DeChamplain is the fourth Ground Zero Temporary Mortuary chaplain to die in the years since their ministry in lower Manhattan.

The Rev. Mitties McDonald DeChamplain’s chaplaincy work is remembered in the Ground Zero Museum Recovery Collection.
Photo: Gary Marlon Suson

DeChamplain was also part of a group of eight General Theological Seminary faculty members who disputed changes at the school in the fall of 2014. They said that the Very Rev. Kurt Dunkle, seminary president and dean, had created an “unsustainable” working environment. The eight faculty members stopped teaching, attending meetings and participating in worship. That action led to their firing, and the dispute gained national attention. The school’s board of trustees, dean and faculty reached an agreement later in the fall that allowed for the provisional reinstatement of faculty members. DeChamplain rejoined the faculty in the fall of 2015 and was honored by the seminary at the end of that academic year.

Funeral arrangements are still being made. DeChamplain is survived by her brother, Scott, as well as Jeff, Laurel and Chontel, the children of her late husband, Ron.

Anglican Church in New Zealand opens the door to blessing same-sex relationships

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 12:20pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Synod of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia passed a resolution May 9 that would allow churches in New Zealand to bless same sex relationships.

The resolution explicitly states that there should be no change to “the Church’s teaching on the nature of marriage [which] is to affirm marriage as between a man and a woman;” but it says individual bishops should be free to use provisions already within the province’s canons for “a non-formulary service” to allow for the blessing of same-sex relationships.

The resolution also calls for changes to the canons so that no member of the clergy can face disciplinary action either for agreeing to bless such relationships or for refusing to do so.

Read the full article here.

South Sudanese in US call on diaspora to work together toward peace

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 12:17pm

[Anglican Communion News Service] A group of South Sudanese expatriates living in the U.S. have met to discuss “obstacles and the foundations for reconciliation and peace-building” in their native land. In a message to other ex-pats issued at the end of the conference organized by the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of the Sudans, they said: “We realized our need for a stronger and more unified voice.” And they are calling on other South Sudanese in North America to unite for peace.

Read the full article here.